The key period in Chile’s history that stretches from the first days of the Unidad Popular (UP) in power in 1970 to the dismantling of “Chile’s road to socialism” by the coup d’état of 11 September 1973 - which includes the political, social, economic, and cultural transformations that the Socialist government led by Salvador Allende promoted and strengthened, and the reaction against them - produced a marked international interest. At first, the possibility of building Socialism through institutional means embodied by the Allende project aroused the enthusiasm of various forces on the political and cultural left beyond the country’s borders (whether or not they had relations with Chile before Allende came to power). At the same time, the election result of 4 September 1970 activated the pre-existing transnational networks of right-wing and Christian Democratic forces, leading them to organize the opposition to Allende and the UP nationally and transnationally. Three years later, the tragic outcome of 11 September 1973, sparked - on the left - a series of reflections on the gradual nature of the changes, the suitability of the traditional democratic framework to promote them, the need to resort to revolutionary violence or maintain the unity of the left (sometimes including members of the Radical Party and Christian Democrats) to achieve the targeted radical goals, and the capacity of “revolutionary” art to produce them. Thus, the brief but crucial Chilean experience of transition to a socialist model has a paradoxical effect. If, at first, the electoral victory of the UP contributed to re-evaluating the previously hegemonic model of armed struggle as the privileged mechanism for “making” revolution, the arbitrariness of the 1973 coup seemed to indicate - to some on the Left - that any effort to institutionally erect Socialism would not be tolerated, calling into question the relevance of the “democratic path”. Reactions from the opposition to the UP ranged from enthusiastically welcoming the coup d’état to condemnations of both the UP and the human rights violations committed by the military regime.
These multiple and extra-national views have been reasserted to this day through the constant publication of scientific monographs - almost 50 years after the 1973 coup d’état - both in Chile and abroad. As this conference aims to underscore, both the UP government and the intervention of the military in Chilean political life from 1973 onwards were not confined to Chile’s territory, nor to the Latin American space. On the contrary, their circulation and reception acquired a transnational and global dimension in which actors from virtually every corner of the world could take part.
The powerful transnational effect of the 1970-1973 term, however, has not been translated into a solid body of studies on its real impact on the Latin American and European scene, and even less so in Africa and Asia. On the other hand, we note that, although the 1973 military coup itself - with the dramatic images of the bombardment of La Moneda that spread throughout the world - has been the subject of valuable academic works and conferences, little is known about the transnational dimension of the political, social, and cultural experience that took place in Chile in the years immediately preceding it. It is commonplace to say that the rise of the first Marxist President, Salvador Allende, through a democratic election had a strong global influence, but we still lack sufficient empirical data to translate this assertion into thorough examinations. Without ignoring the fundamental progression of existing publications on the transnational dynamics of the turbulent 1970-1973 in Chile, this conference aims to overcome the limitations and shortcomings that remain through the elaboration of three privileged, though not exclusive, axes.
Topic 1 – “The Chilean Path and other National Paths during the Global Cold War. Comparative and connected histories”
The first objective of the conference is to insert the “Chilean Road to Socialism” into the broader continental and/or global search for radical (though not always Socialist) change via “national paths”. This change could be political - for example, “Socialism with a human face” - and/or socio-economic (for example, state control over national natural resources), but it always sought to couple the consolidation of national sovereignty with the creation of international bodies capable of articulating and promoting the different “national paths” of “peripheral” countries. Along these lines, we encourage contributors to send paper proposals that - through comparative or connected lens - question the Chilean process of 1970-1973 as a historical exception, a unique moment in national and international history during the Cold War. We are primarily interested in bringing together contributions that frame Salvador Allende’s “unarmed road” in the hemispheric context that had recently seen the emergence of other left-wing experiences. These progressive experiences were often thoroughly unrelated with the “foquista” insurrectionary scheme designed by the Fidel Castro regime since 1959. In Peru and Panama, for example, “progressive” military leaders Juan Velasco Alvarado and Omar Torrijos led left-wing projects with a strongly anti-imperialist rhetoric that paved the way for important transformations (agrarian reform, nationalization, etc.). In those same years, José María Velasco Ibarra in Ecuador also followed a reformist path that seemed to have more common features than divergences with the UP project. Secondly, we encouraged comparative perspectives or “cross-histories” beyond Latin
America’s territory, in a still relatively unexplored terrain: the scenario of the global left (from Eastern Europe or the so-called “Third World” or international organizations such as the United Nations or the Non-Aligned Movement). Through this conference, we seek to actively stimulate this type of intellectual endeavor, as we believe that the multiplication of original methods and approaches should lead us to a better understanding of the real transnational impact of the 1970-1973 period in Chile.
Topic 2 – “The global ideological and political impact of the Chilean experience”
Through this topic, we wish to encourage contributions that wonder about the impact of Allende's rise to power, as well as the political, socio-economic, and cultural reforms promoted by the UP. We could also address the global resonance of the unprecedented experiences of political socialization and social organization during the 1970-1973 term, as well as the impact that the 1973 coup d'état had on the strategic reflections and concrete actions of various actors on a global scale. There is no doubt that the “Chilean Path to Socialism” opened a horizon of expectations for several left-wing forces, particularly in Western Europe, who saw in the peaceful transition to socialism exemplified by Chile a scheme that seemed to suit the local scenarios. In this sense, the UP experience could also have led to a reassessment of the “foquista” tactics encouraged since the early 1960s by the Cuban example without yielding the expected results, as the death of Ernesto Guevara in Bolivia in 1967 made it clear. On the other hand, we should also wonder whether the destruction of Allende's project, which seemed to confirm the near impossibility of moving towards Socialism through institutional means, put insurrectional strategies on a global scale back on the floor. Finally, by highlighting the transnational dimension of the “pluralist” path taken by Allende, we do not want to limit our perspectives to left-wing sectors. We also hope to stir reflections on how centrist or right-wing forces might have reacted to what some regarded as a new “Communist threat”. The strategies that conservative governments or opposition sectors may have devised to halt the advance of democratic socialism in their own countries are undoubtedly a crucial point in completing the transnational view of the 1970-1973 Chilean political cycle.
We invite contributors to analyze, not only the circulation of ideas and ideological debates, but also the actors who contributed to the “transnationalization” of the UP experience. Beyond the ideological influences and strategic changes that the Allende government and the coup d'état may have exerted or provoked, the 1970-1973 years accelerated contacts between activists and left-wing leaders who saw in the UP government a hope through which they could learn valuable lessons for their own projects. Trips of prominent political figures (Fidel Castro, François Mitterrand, or intellectuals such as the Italian Rossana Rossanda and the French Régis Debray, who wrote about the UP and shared their experience in Italy and France) suggest this, although they should not overlook a less visible but equally relevant circulation, such as that of numerous Latin American exiles who found refuge in Allende’s Chile, and those who were forced to leave Chile after 11 September 1973. We should also question the existence of possible secret movements (intelligence officers, spies, weapons, guerrillas, refugees, etc.), a widely suggested topic, although such assumptions have not led to a serious body of historiographical work. We enthusiastically welcome paper proposals that explore not only the role of these political mediators, but also develop a theoretical reflection on the relationship between mobility (voluntary or forced) and change in political subjectivities.
Topic 3 – “Cultural circulations: A privileged means for the transnationalization of the Chilean process of 1970-1973”
Human mobility formed networks of both political and cultural mediators. The latter are decisive when it comes to understanding global representations of the Chilean process, and there is still much to be said about that. Thus, it is still needed to explore the spreading of Chilean cultural expressions before and after the 1973 turning point, which in many cases (as in Greece and Cyprus) constituted the main vector for the reception of the Chilean experience in foreign societies. If Chilean music or cinema reached a higher level of international visibility in the 1970-1973 interlude, there are indications suggesting that the culture conveyed by post-coup exiles rose as a crucial factor (perhaps the most influential) in shaping the representations and imaginaries of the Chilean experience abroad. It has been shown, for instance, that Chilean music bands in exile enjoyed a wide reception, but less has been said about the potential attraction that the Chilean literature or art might have produced in the same period. This conference hopes to provide a privileged space for the elaboration of a cultural and transnational history of the Chilean 1970-1973 process.
This will be a hybrid conference (on-site and from remote) and it will take place at the beginning of June 2023. Working languages of the conference are Spanish and English.
We look forward to receiving your proposals by 5 June 2022.
You can send them to: ColoquioChileUp@gmail.com